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  • Russian Whistleblower Sues Oligarch


    (ATR) Grigory Rodchenkov’s lawyers filed a lawsuit in the United States against Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, saying he is financing a lawsuit on behalf of three Russian biathletes.

    (Getty Images)
    Recent news reports in Russia sought to paint Rodchenkov’s testimony of a state-backed Russian doping scheme having been undermined by decisions from the Court of Arbitration for Sport annulling lifetime bans for some Russian athletes. In response, three biathletes sued Rodchenkov for defamation.

    Rodchenkov’s lawyers explained on a conference call with the media that they have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against him, and a counter-suit against the biathletes and Prokhorov. Prokhorov is a Russian oligarch and owns a majority stake in the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets.

    “I want to take the opportunity to challenge the latest disinformation campaign coming from the Kremlin,” Jim Walden, one of Rodchenkov’s lawyers said on the call. “They have claimed that Rodchenkov has retreated from his testimony; he has not waivered, retreated or contradicted his truth. His testimony has been corroborated again and again.”

    The counter-suit is being filed under New York’s anti-SLAPP law, which protects whistleblowers from facing “vindictive lawsuits” for speaking out against the programs for which they exposed, according to Derek Borchardt, another of Rodchenkov’s lawyers.

    Rodchenkov released a statement through his lawyers saying “I am healthy and well and also well protected; I continue to cooperate with criminal and anti-doping authorities despite Russia’s recent disinformation campaign”. He has lived under protective custody in the United States since 2015 after fleeing Russia in the beginnings of the Russian doping crisis.

    After the investigation into manipulation of Russian anti-doping samples in athletics began to spread to other sports, Rodchenkov turned himself into U.S. authorities with evidence. After the release of the first McLaren report the World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia non-compliant of its code and suspended the Moscow anti-doping lab. Nearly every summer Olympic sport federation was touched by the scandal before the Rio Olympics, and an IOC commission found evidence to corroborate a manipulation of the anti-doping lab at the Sochi Olympics.

    Following the corroboration of the Sochi scheme by the IOC’s Schmid Commission, the IOC sought to ban many of the Russian athletes for life and strip them of medals won in Sochi. CAS ruled that the IOC did not meet the burden of proof to secure a lifetime ban, and could not corroborate that the athletes themselves took park in the doping scheme. CAS overturned the ban, opening the door for potential future Olympic participation, kicking off a week of legal drama before the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    Grigory Rodchenkov (Wikimedia Commons)
    Walden said that the “high burden of proof…applied to individual culpability” is what led CAS arbitrators to rule in favor of the athletes, not any holes in Rodchenkov’s testimony. Walden added that the ongoing investigation into the International Biathlon Union shows how Rodchenkov continues to aid investigators worldwide.

    The raid on the IBU offices, Walden says, confirms that Rodchenkov continues to provide truthful information to investigators, and should not be prosecuted for speaking his mind. The raid also shows that international sporting bodies in the past have been pursuing two tracks of justice in Olympic sport, “one for Russia, one for the rest of the world,” according to Walden.

    “This was probably the stupidest thing someone could have done bringing this to the United States where we have a court that cares about the truth, unlike CAS and [the] IOC,” Walden said. “A court will look at all the truth, and allow us to secure a ruling that [shows the] athletes are responsible and their financiers are responsible. So we very much look forward to prosecuting this litigation.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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